"How very King Henry the Eighth of you, Sir!" the eternally impertinent Grievous opined upon receiving his secret orders in the Imperial Suite's conversation pit.
Tarrant-Arragon was accustomed to Grievous's chauvinistic assumptions that everyone knew the finer points and personalities of English history. However, he was interested. He had been likened to Henry the Eighth before, on account of his own exaggerated reputation for disposing of unfaithful companions.
"Really, Grievous?" Tarrant-Arragon draped his arms over the curved back support of the pit seating, in an exaggeratedly relaxed pose. "Did your Henry the Eighth of Englishmen maroon his sisters on alien worlds with unsuitable suitors?"
"Not exactly, Sir, but he did invade Scotland to make sure that the infant Mary Queen of Scots married his young son Edward."
"He succeeded, I infer?"
"Nah, Sir. King Henry's sister's daughter-in-law objected to his tactics and married off the little girl to a Frog prince instead."
"A frog prince?" Tarrant-Arragon arched an eyebrow at his man. An amphibian shapeshifter? That would make oral sex interesting!
"Yup. A frog. That's what we call the Frenchies, Sir. I dare say you'd call it a racial slur."
"I dare say I would." Tarrant-Arragon lost interest. "Ahhh, if this Henry the Eighth's tactics did not work, why do you make the comparison, Grievous? It's hardly flattering to have my methods likened to the behavior of an ineffective tyrant." He put the stress on "ineffective."
"You shouldn't be flattered, Sir."
"Quite so," Tarrant-Arragon murmured, thoroughly enjoying what might be his last unintended insult from his human side-kick. "Do go on."
"Here's the scheme as I grasp it, Sir." Grievous said. "Oh, my Lord! What the…?"
The man's posture stiffened. Fear leaked from his pores. "You've got a tiger loose in here, Sir," he said in a strangled whisper.
The human squeezed his ankles and knees together. He interlaced his fingers, and pressed his balled, linked hands into his lap. He swallowed hard, and the lump humans have in their scrawny throats jerked.
"They're my sister's. I could hardly smuggle two tigers aboard The Trajant. They'd eat the crew while she sleeps, and give the game away." In some amusement, he watched Grievous's light blue gaze zigzag, as the Englishman tried to locate the second tiger.
Alph was "couchant" under the dining table, quietly amusing himself with an unopened container of wine, which he'd hooked from the table onto the carpeted floor. Tarrant-Arragon had last seen Bey-ta investigating the suite's guest restroom where it sounded –faintly, to Djinn ears—as if he had found something less sophisticated to drink.
Tarrant-Arragon stroked his upper lip, and decided to take pity on his man. "You're quite safe, Grievous. Relax and you won't smell so much like prey. I need you on The Trajant. Do continue to give me your understanding of my 'scheme'."
Grievous blinked rapidly. "Right you are, Sir. For whatever reason, 'Rhett has a bee in his bonnet about going to Earth in a hurry. So you're making his trip possible before he thinks better of it. Am I doing all right? I don't still smell tasty, do I, Sir?"
Tarrant-Arragon pushed off the seat, and strolled to the table, where he opened a new wine, and poured a glass for himself and Grievous, and slopped a small quantity into a bowl to keep Alph happy.
"You are doing well so far." He handed Grievous the wine and stood over the man while he took his first swig. "Moreover…?"
"Moreover, Sir—thank you kindly—moreover, what 'Rhett doesn't know is that you're giving him a one-way ticket. In keeping with the jolly splendid legal precedent of 'Give a dog a bad name and hang him for it'—"
"A favorite precept of mine," Tarrant-Arragon agreed, and raised a toast to various vindictive mantras. "Not dissimilar to 'Be done by as you did'. But preemptive."
The bouquet of the wine had improved Grievous's body odor.
"Yes, Sir! 'Rhett won't realize that he's got your sister aboard as a stowaway until he's too far on his way for it to save her reputation, or his, if he turns back. He'll find that he can't come back, because all the Worlds will think he's guilty as sin of running off with her. As in the Greek legend of Helen of Troy, he'll be in the position of having done a bunk with a King's wife."
Tarrant-Arragon grinned. "My disgraceful mother's tarot cards are so very inspirational."
"That would be inspiring, Sir. Not inspirational."
Grievous and 'Rhett ought to get along like a dwelling on fire. Pedants, both. Also sanctimonious.
"Why would that be?" Tarrant-Arragon enquired silkily.
"Well, Sir." Grievous flushed. "Your grand scheme isn't exactly moral, is it? It's bad enough that they've been sneaking around having a fling. You're making sure they go the whole stinking hog and shack up together. I dare say it has occurred to you that that poor bastard, the cuckolded King of Volnoth, might declare war on the Saurians, since 'Rhett is now thought to be a sort of Saurian Prince."
"That would be convenient for me, wouldn't it, Grievous? It would clarify Viz-Igerd's diplomatic loyalties quite neatly."
Grievous snorted. "So, you're wrecking a marriage that might or might not be on the rocks for political clarity? Bloody Henry! You're a right Royal rotter, you know it?"
"I do know, Grievous." Tarrant-Arragon threw back his head and laughed. "I rely on your discretion. For as long as you can, report back to me. I want to know what 'Rhett and my sister do when they wake up to their dilemma. If I've misjudged them and the nature of what they are up to, I imagine that he'll install her in the Royal Suite and move out."
"That'd be like slamming the barn door shut, Sir, after the mare has bolted. Er, that's another saying. Meaning there's not a lot of point."
"Meaning that 'Rhett is stuck with my sister, so he might as well enjoy her. I believe that will be all, Grievous. Don't forget to come back—empty-handed."
Grievous finished his wine. "Empty-handed, Sir? Does that mean you want me to maroon the Prince Thor-quentin as well? I'm not sure that…"
Tarrant-Arragon shut down his smile.
Grievous got to his feet.
"Thor-quentin stays with the war-star, Grievous. My younger sister would expect me to take excellent care of her younger son. Unleash Thor-quentin only to make sure that Electra goes willingly to Earth, where she'll be safe from her enemies, from her outraged Mate, and from Viz-Igerd's overzealous courtiers, such as the Master of the Household. Thor-quentin won't give you—or my sister—any real trouble. He's only half-Djinn, so he is not what I'd call dangerous."
Tarrant-Arragon pretended not to hear Grievous's parting shot.
"Your idea of dangerous and mine, Sir, are worlds apart."